How to be the #1 Teacher Mentor (its easier than you think!)
Senior staff are sometimes requested to mentor other teachers as part of professional development programs or to help novice teachers learn the ropes. Either way, mentoring is a huge responsibility that is bestowed on teachers who are skilled and experienced. Being a mentor is not an easy task, and it requires more than just sharing stories and experiences. As the effectiveness of mentor programs are influenced by the skills and attitudes of mentor teachers, here are some tips to help teachers become the #1 teacher mentor:
Build trust: Successful mentoring programs require active participation and collaboration between teachers. This is possible only when there is rapport and trust between the mentor and mentee (novice teacher). Mentors must:
- Put mentees at ease by welcoming them and making them feel accepted and part of the school community.
- Treat mentees with respect as they are still their colleagues.
- Impart hope and optimism to mentees.
Collaboration: The key word in mentoring programs is collaboration. Mentors must be willing to consider and address the needs of mentees, as opposed to choosing their own goals. They can discuss with and observe mentees to understand their needs and plan for addressing these issues. Collaborating on goals can help mentees feel valued and accepted, which can help them:
- Feel more confident in their mentors and trust them.
- Open up to suggestions in other areas.
- Increase their commitment towards their professional growth.
- Succeed in improving their teaching abilities.
Mentoring tools: Mentors can use discussion, observations, modeling and practice sessions as tools for mentoring. Mentors must:
- Demonstrate good listening skills as it will help them get to know mentees and understand them better.
- Include mentees in all activities such as planning, decision making, implementation of pedagogies and classroom management.
- Explain the rationale behind actions as it can help mentees understand and learn. Give them tips and suggestions which they can implement in their teaching practices.
- Plan for observation sessions, and model strategies and techniques.
- Encourage questions and clarify information where needed.
- Provide mentees with opportunities for practicing learned techniques. Observe them and give them feedback.
- Coach mentees through situations and provide resources, teaching materials and tools.
- Challenge mentees to learn and explore new ways of teaching.
- Record all sessions. Mentors must remember to record their mentoring process and encourage mentees to keep logs of all discussions and meetings. This helps to validate discussions and serves as documentation of the mentoring program for administrative purposes.
- Support mentees emotionally.
Feedback: Giving feedback is a crucial step in the mentoring program. Here are a few points to bear in mind when giving feedback:
- Feedback must be constructive and unbiased. The primary aim of mentoring program is to help mentees grow and improve their teaching skills. Any feedback given must facilitate this goal.
- Avoid being judgmental.
- Give positive feedback and appreciate teachers for the right actions. This helps to motivate and inspire them to continue growing.
Commit to Mentoring: Mentors, too, need to constantly update and keep themselves abreast of recent trends and changes in the educational scenario. Mentors can:
- Complete a mentoring training program to be equipped with the skills and knowledge required for training others.
- Participate in high-end professional courses that help them enhance their mentoring skills.
By being a good mentor, teachers can help their mentees develop teacher efficacy, empower them to be resilient and inspire them to handle challenges faced in the profession.
Become your school’s #1 teacher mentor with the online PD course: Teacher Coaching.
January 2021 Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in July 2015 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
About the Author
Ellen Paxton is a respected expert in education and best known as the Chief Learning Officer of Professional Learning Board. As a two-time National Board Certified Teacher, Ellen has successfully published and customized online professional development courses and Learning Management Systems for 20 years to help teachers meet their state continuing education renewal credit requirements. Through ProfessionalLearningBoard.com, RenewaTeachingLicense.com, and ConnectedPD.com, Ellen has established solutions and maintained partnerships with several accredited universities, higher education institutions, teachers’ unions and state Departments of Education while setting strategic direction that makes a difference and overseeing implementation of popular online PD for schools.